Minggu, 19 Oktober 2014

Apple's latest thinnovations have scanty appeal

Apple's latest thinnovations have scanty appeal

Apple, dear heart, I love you tremendously but you fetishise thinness worse than a dreadful old woman-hating fashion designer – and you have to stop it.

When computers were heavier than a neutron star and thicker than a lazy footballer stereotype, thinness was a laudable goal; of course you wanted to slim down the chunkiness of a laptop computer you could barely hold with one hand. Until I used a PowerBook G3 recently I genuinely had forgotten quite what lunking great slabs laptops used to be.

Let's not forget the launch of the MacBook Air (nor forget that the original model was actually a little portly by comparison to today's); this was the ur-ultrabook, and it took the PC industry months even to realise it had to catch up, never mind start producing laptops that did. This was also when 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users are a herd of slavish, sycophantic sheeple, you will forever after compare other laptops to it. 'Thin' is a big part of that, and Apple's in the business of making us flat-out want the things it makes.

But there does, there really does, come a point where things are thin enough. Now, there's a danger that this stance comes off as reactionary – that I'm the equivalent of a gruff old man in the corner of a pub telling you that a hole in the ground was perfectly good as a toilet when 'e were a lad and why did they have to fancy-up a perfectly good waste disposal solution with 'indoors' and 'drainage' and 'eradicating cholera'.

iPad Air 2
Do two millimetres make that big a difference?

It's not that kind of transformative change I'm talking about, though. Getting a computer down from four centimetres thick to two makes a huge difference, but getting it from 20mm to 18mm is just willy-waving.

Like all willy-waving, it's designed to distract and impress and yet rarely does – and it's usually done for the wrong reasons. When Apple introduced the iPhone 6, it had a bigger footprint and weighed more than an iPhone 5s, but Apple shouted 'thin!' in the hope we wouldn't notice.

What we did notice is that at least initially it feels a little uncomfortably thin in the hand. What we did notice is that if they'd made it thicker – or even just 'the same thickness as the model it succeeded' – it would have had more space for a bigger battery. What we did notice is that thinner objects can be empirically less robust.

My point is that there are lots of good ergonomic and marketing reasons to make technology slimmer when it's unwieldy, but once a particular slimness is achieved it can actually be detrimental or at least unnecessary to make it thinner still.

I'm sure Apple is much smarter than I am, and I don't doubt that it has very good data and instincts that tell it people really will respond to a thinner-still iPad. But when you brag one year that the iPad Air can hide behind a pencil, and brag the next year that the iPad Air 2 can hide behind a pencil you've laser-shaved a bit off, it does smell a bit like you're struggling to differentiate the new model.

An obsession with thinness isn't healthy, whether it's in technology or in life. In technology it's merely a silly distraction, but that's not behaviour becoming of Apple.

iPad Air 2 has Touch ID and Apple's thinnest design yet

iPad Air 2 has Touch ID and Apple's thinnest design yet

No points for guessing this was going to happen - Apple has just announced the iPad Air 2, which arrives with a number of improvements on the iPad Air.

At 6.1mm it's the thinnest tablet Apple has ever made - down from the Air's 7.5mm. In fact, Apple claims that it's the thinnest tablet in the world.

The screen same remains the same, but the Air 2 now comes with Touch ID, the security feature first introduced on the iPhone 5S, just as the leaks foretold.

  • Read our hands on: iPad Air 2 review

The tablet brings Apple's second-gen 64-bit architecture with a PGEgaHJlZj0iaHR0cDovL3d3dy5ob3N0aW5na2l0YS5jb20NIiB0YXJnZXQ9Il9ibGFuayIgcmVsPSJub2ZvbGxvdyI+ZGVkaWNhdGVkIDwvYT4=A8X processor, which has been modified from the iPhone 6 to make it more powerful.

No air in Air

iPad

Apple's also putting more emphasis on the camera, packing its new tablet with an 8MP iSight camera (f/2.4 aperture) which shoots 1080p and can do burstmode, panorama shots, and auto HDR. The front-facing camera has also been upgraded, though the specific details haven't been disclosed

Funnily enough, Apple pointed out that everything in the tablet is now optically bounded, which means that there's no air gaps in the Air. There's also no volume silencer.

The new anti-reflective screen tech is also a welcome improvement, and something else we'd been expecting to see.

The tablet starts at $499/£399/AU$619 for 16GB, $599/£479/AU$739 for 64GB and $699/£559/AU$859 for 128GB. Pre-orders will start October 17 (October 18 for Australia), and will begin to ship at the end of next week.

Check out our hands on video with the tablet below!

  • Apple's iPad event - follow it live

Apple iPad Air 2 and iMac event: What was announced and what wasn't

Apple iPad Air 2 and iMac event: What was announced and what wasn't

The more that Apple's events try to add comedy, the fewer surprises it actually has to unveil. That was the case with this week's funny, but non-so-top-secret iPad and Mac event.

October now means new iPads and Macs as much as it guarantees Halloween every year. And it always makes room for the latest PGEgaHJlZj0iaHR0cDovL3d3dy5ob3N0aW5na2l0YS5jb20NIiB0YXJnZXQ9Il9ibGFuayIgcmVsPSJub2ZvbGxvdyI+aU9TIDwvYT4=update to fix launch bugs and a fresh coat of paint for OS X, at least it has over the last two years.

That's not to say that these updates aren't great. We especially liked the iMac Retina 5K and are charging up our iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to use Apple Pay next week.

Just in case you weren't able to boot up Safari to catch the live stream or follow our live blog, here's what you missed and didn't miss.

  • Here's a re-cap of what Google announced this week.

New iPad Air 2 and PGEgaHJlZj0iaHR0cDovL2hvc3RpbmdraXRhLmNvbQ0iIHRhcmdldD0iX2JsYW5rIiByZWw9Im5vZm9sbG93Ij5pUGFkIG1pbmkgPC9hPg==3

It's called the iPad Air 2, but Apple got rid of the air between its tablet's display components for a thinner design that's 0.24 inches (6.1mm).

iPad Air 2 display
Mmmmmm... sandwich

Sandwiched glass, touch sensor and LCD layers make up this 9.7 inch screen and result in a sharper looking picture, even if it keeps that 2048 x 1536 resolution.

Apple's outer design is about subtraction, while its internals add a stepped-up A8X processor, Touch ID fingerprint sensor and new 8-megapixel camera if you're one of those people.

The subtle 7.9-inch iPad mini 3 upgrade shares just three of iPad Air 2's new specs: Touch ID, gold color option and 64GB replacing 32GB for the same price.

iOS 8.1 release date

A handful of existing iPhone and iPad customers are counting down the days until the iOS 8.1 release date, which we now know is October 20.

iOS 8
Bug fixes incoming

As we said in our iOS 8 review, we liked the new features of this operating system update, but its Wi-Fi and battery drain issues for a handful of customers were an unwelcome change.

Apple is promising that it listened to your "feedback" and will fix the bugs on Monday when iOS 8.1 becomes available to download.

Apple Pay launch

Everything from Disneyland to Starbucks plans to accept Apple's digital wallet, meaning you have twice as much reason to avoid leaving your iPhone 6 at home.

Apple Pay
Apple Pay in action

Apple Pay launches Monday in the US along with the iOS 8.1 update, and the company has enlisted 500 banks and three credit card firms: Visa, American Express and MasterCard.

Its Touch ID fingerprint verification could one day make this the most secure payment method vs swipe-based credit card machines that have recently been targeted by hackers.

iMac with Retina 5K and Mac Mini

Apple's redesigned all-in-one computer got even more brilliant with the iMac with Retina 5K Display announcement. It's 27 inches with 14.7 million pixels and 217 pixels per inch.

That's better than a 4K TV thanks to its 5120 x 2880 resolution, all for the fairly reasonable price of $2,499 (£1,999, AU$2,999). That's ideal for professionals.

Apple Pay
This super-thin computer puts your 4K TV to shame

Also introduced at the Apple event was Mac mini, which sits at the opposite end of the price spectrum at $499 (£399, AU$619).

All of a sudden that budget0conscious student stuck on Windows 8 who says they "can't afford to buy a Mac computer" has a cost-effective option.

Download OS X Yosemite right now

We knew all of the OS X 10.10 Yosemite features from WWDC and have been toying with the beta for several months. Now it's finally here on our Macs.

You can download the redesigned Apple operating system that sports a flatter iOS 7-like look and check out the cross-platform features that tie into iOS 8.

OS X Yosemite
Free and available right now

Phone calls and messages, even from Android users, are now relayed from your iPhone to your Mac thanks to Yosemite. It really breaks down the mobile-to-Mac wall.

Outside of the Apple Watch tease, that was it for the Apple iPad and Mac event highlights. But not everything we wanted to see was announced.

They're now possible surprises for next year and await you on Page 2.